August 18, 1590 – Roanoke Colonist Give Governor The Slip

On this day in 1590, the Roanoke Island Colony, off from present day North Carolina, is discovered to have been abandoned.  Returning from a “supply run” (booze run) to England, the colony’s governor, John White, returns to an empty fort.  Not a trace remained of any of the colonists, including John White’s very own daughter and granddaughter.  The only clue to their fate is a single word, “CROATOAN”, which was carved on the fort’s outer wall.  Many historians believe that extreme drought conditions forced the colonists from the settlement.  They then tried to settle the Croatoan Island, fifty miles north, but were abducted by a herd of Bigfoots* along their way.  This is of course not true.  It wasn’t drought that sparked the exodus, it was John White himself.  Recently, a magnificently preserved letter from the Roanoke Colonists addressed to John White himself, has been discovered in the fort’s ruins.  Though clearly never read by its intended recipient, the letter is now widely regarded as the world’s first “Dear John letter” and read like this:

Dearest John,

It is with most profound regrets that we leave this wonderful settlement you’ve created.  We (the colonists) have talked this over at great length and feel that you are just not the governor for us.  Its not you, it’s us.  We are getting older and just don’t have the energy to keep up with your late nights, excessive drinking and loud music (the natives next door have started to complain about the noise and have threatened to send a raiding party if it persists).  We need a governor who is ready to settle down and start a serious colony.  

If we’re being frank, all of us are more than a little tired of your attempts to “lighten the mood” with silly games like “Crazy Hat Friday” and “Pajama Day”.  We are starving, John, and this doesn’t seem like a smart use of time.  Not to mention the fact that none of us own pajamas or more than one hat (none of which are crazy, except for Billy’s sombrero).  Also, your rule that everyone has to take their shoes off before entering the fort is absurd.  The floor is dirt, John.  Dirt.  Stop being a jerk.  And finally, just like we said, the natives didn’t steal your wallet, you just misplaced it.  You’re daughter found it in the pocket of your pants.  We’d suggest apologizing to Chief Hugging Bear; he seemed pretty ticked off about the things you said and about the name you’ve given him.

Because of these reasons, we have decided to relocate to a new colony far away.  We know that you have attachment issues, John, so we have decided against disclosing the location.  Please don’t try and contact us.  If we need anything, we’ll get ahold of you.  We know you’ll do great, John, you just need to find the right people.

Best of luck,

The Colonist

It is now thought that the carving of the word “CROATOAN” was done by the neighboring Native American tribe; done so in an attempt to get John White to go look for his colonists somewhere else.  John White did in fact go look for his colonists on Croatoan Island and never returned to Roanoke, so I guess it worked.  The colonists were never seen or heard from again because they were eaten by Bigfoots as I said earlier.

*Bigfoots used to roam the American forests in herds until they were hunted to extinction** in the early 1600’s for their magnificent pelts and their sweet meat.  Pickled Bigfeet was a favorite treat among early American settlers.
**They’re not extinct.

June 18, 1831 – Morris Code Is Aneurysmed Into Existence

On the morning of June 18, 1831, the world was introduced inadvertently to the first rudimentary form of “texting” through an event that would ignite communications technology development spanning almost two centuries. I’m speaking of course about the creation of the Morris Code, which, though similar, should not be confused with the more commonly known Morse Code, which was created a full five years later.

That fateful morning in 1831, Dwayne Morris, a  well respected New York City prosecutor, suffered a series of minor ordinary inconveniences (i.e. spilled his coffee, stubbed his toe, ran out of toilet paper, etc).  On any other morning, these events would have only soured the lawyer’s mood, but due to mounting pressure from a high profile case he was working, these became the catalyst for a debilitating mental breakdown.   Seconds before he was to give his closing arguments, somewhere in the area of his brain that controlled  speech, a wire became crossed as a fuse burned out and Morris’ speech was reduced to a series of high pitched beeps and erratic screeches.  As you can imagine, those who witnessed this event immediately labeled Morris insane, costing him the case.

The laughing stock of the law world, Morris descended into a deep depression and refused to see anyone.  It wasn’t until a year later that Morris’ wife, in an effort to lift his spirits, hired a young painter/inventor named Samuel Morse to come to the house to paint a portrait of her husband.  After much beeping and screeching, Morris finally conveyed through exasperated arms that he would concede to having his portrait painted.  Now if you’ve ever had your portrait painted (which I’m assuming most of you have), it’s a long and grueling process to hold a continuous pose.  In an effort to make the time go faster, Morse, unaware of Morris’ condition struck up a conversation, only to be met with a frustrated tirade of beeps and screeches from behind his easel.  For the genius mind of Morse, it didn’t take long to recognize a pattern developing in the beeps and screeches and soon the two men were hard at work deciphering the meanings behind each sequence of sounds.  As the two men mastered the new language, a friendship blossomed and they even developed a shorthand of saying things which was remarkably similar to the acronyms used in modern day “texting”.

In the summer of 1935, Morse began telling Morris of his idea to convert his “beep/screech language”, which they had dubbed “Morris Code”, into a series of electric pulses that could be carried over wire for long distance.  He was certain it would be a communications breakthrough and make both men very rich.  Unfortunately, Morris had never been a fan of witchcraft, which he assumed this to be and he asked Morse to never speak of it again.  Only two weeks later, Morris arrived home to find his study in disarray and the notes and research that he and Morse had compiled to be missing.  Scrawled in large dots and dashes across his desk were four simple letters in Morris Code:  YOLO.   He never heard from Samuel Morse again.
Though it seems like a tragic end to the story of Dwayne Morris, he was not entirely forgotten by history.  A small group of Morris supporters still exist today and are unusually vocal about their disdain for the Morse Code (many still believe it to be witchcraft and Tweet about it constantly).  Most people don’t know, but the famous puppeteer Jim Henson was a “Morris man” and created his lovable Muppet character Beaker as a tribute to his hero.

April 1, 1536 – April Foals’ Day

On April 1, 1536, the first official “April Fools’ Day” was celebrated in London, England under the rule of King Henry VIII.  Though relatively harmless fun in modern times, the pranks and hoaxes the holiday is known for have a rather grim origin.  The first April Fools’ Day began when the King’s court jester or “fool”, who historians only know as Oliver, was foolish enough to make a rather colorful joke about the King’s notorious six failed marriages.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with King Henry and Oliver was promptly beheaded, as was the custom of the time.  Very, very gradually over the years, April Fools’ Day pranks transitioned from beheadings to the more psychologically and emotionally scarring pranks we now practice today.

Though this was the first “official” April Fools’ Day, the unofficial origins of the holiday extend back centuries further to the ancient druids, who would celebrate the spring births of their horses with April Foals’ Day.  The intent of the holiday was to be a serious celebration of new beginnings and the arrival of Spring, but usually just ended up just being a bunch of drunk idiots throwing horse placentas at each other.  Hence the origins of the holiday’s trademark tomfoolery.

Over the years different countries have developed their own traditions to celebrate April Fools’ Day.  For instance, in Scotland, April Fools’ Day is traditionally called Huntigowk Day, which translates to “Hunt the Gowk” Day (a “gowk” being Scots for “foolish”).  As part of the holiday tradition, each village would vote who the most foolish person in town was and they would be dubbed “the gowk”.  The entire village would then be invited to hunt the unlucky individual who was sent out into the Scottish moors and given a three hour head start.  It would be years later that American author (of Scottish descent) Richard Connell would capture an adaptation of this grisly tradition in his classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” (originally titled “The Gowk That Got Away”).

I hope you have found this enlightening and if someone tries to April Fool you today, you can explain to them that no matter what they do to you, it beats being beheaded or hunted like wild game.  While these uneducated individuals are trying to figure out what in the heck you are talking about, you can take that opportunity to throw a horse placenta at them and make your exit (horse placentas can be found wherever your local hipsters shop).

Happy Fools Day from Hogwash!!!

March 14, 1749 – Franklin’s “Benny Bots”

March 14, 1749, Benjamin Franklin, hungover from an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration, invented the first working lightning rod under the false pretense that he meant to make people’s homes and buildings safer from lightning.  Franklin had long been known as an inventor, having been the brains behind such inventions as bifocals, the odometer, and the flexible urinary catheter.  In actuality Franklin’s lightning rod was created for something much different.  He was secretly looking to harness electricity to power his recently assembled droid army.  Having long anticipated a split from the British throne, Franklin wanted to ensure that America’s future would be secure with his so called “Benny Bots”.

Understanding the paranoia of the time and not wanting to be accused of witchcraft (or warlock-craft in his case) Franklin kept his Benny Bots pretty close to the vest for many years.  When it became obvious that separation from the British Empire was close and a war was inevitable, Franklin presented his creation to his fellow Founding Fathers.  In what has often been considered the first official democratic vote in America, a landslide decision was reached to burn Franklin at the stake for “flagrant warlockness”.  It was only at the last minute that General George Washington and his giant pet eagle (see July 4, 1776 – ‘Murica Day for more detail) stepped in to save Mr. Franklin.  Franklin was given the opportunity to explain the science behind his invention in order to salvage his reputation, but few of the Founding Fathers actually listened as they were too busy giggling and daring each other to test out the flexible urinary catheter.  After a failed test battle at Thomas Jefferson’s house left half of Monticello in ruins, the droids were sidelined for good.  The Benny Bots sat in storage for over a century until they were finally purchased at auction in 1928 from the government by a fledgling Motorola company, eventually leading to the droid cell phones we see today.

Note: It is said that on his death bed, Benjamin Franklin, in a moment of prophetic clarity quietly whispered “hello moto” before passing away.

Here’s a fun, little known, fact for you Star Wars fans out there.  In Star Wars: Episode 1, George Lucas actually used the original Franklin Benny Bot blueprints to design the look of his Trade Federation droids who battled the Gungans in the second half of the movie.  Another piece Lucas tied in was the knowledge that Franklin also had an assistant by the name of Dr. Jarvis Binks, whom was often called “Jar Jar” as a nickname.  Everyone hated him too.

February 2, 1886 – Punxsutawney Carl And The Groundhog Day Mauling

On this day in 1887, the first Groundhog Day (as we know it today) was celebrated at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  A newspaper editor belonging to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (a group of groundhog hunters) declared Phil, Punxsutawney’s groundhog, to be the only true weather predicting rodent in America.  Tradition states that if Phil sees his shadow he will retreat back into his hole and there will be six more weeks of winter.  He will then be the most loathed creature in America.  The year prior, in 1886, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, which was then known as the Punxsutawney Black Bear Club (guess what they hunted) tried to hold a celebration on the same principles.  Unfortunately, instead of seeing his shadow after emerging from hibernation, the bear known as Punxsutawney Carl saw the seven sportsman gathered outside his den and gave them all good mauling.  The group changed its name the following day and decided to hunt a slightly easier prey.  *Note: Gobbler’s Knob is named after Thomas Myron Gobbler, who lost his arm to Carl, leaving only a knob in its place.

America is not the only country to celebrate this holiday.  For instance, Russia used to hold a similar Groundhog Day celebration, but that all changed when Vladimir Putin became acting President on December 31, 1999.  Putin, using intelligence he had gathered during his time in the KGB, formed a case against the Moscow Marmot, resulting in his banishment to a Siberian labor camp.  It is said that the Moscow Marmot befriended an aging COL Bananapants (for more information read here) who helped him finally get over his fear of shadows.  As for Groundhog Day in Russia currently, it is celebrated by Putin riding a pure white horse while shirtless through the streets of Moscow.  Citizens of Moscow are expected to emerge from their homes to witness the “parade”, but may not look directly at their President.  Instead they must only gaze at his shadow because if they were to inadvertently make eye contact with him, he would “make sure that winter never ended for them.”

On a final note, there have been 54 Punxsutawney Phil’s since the first Groundhog Day in 1887.  The tradition of the U.S. President pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey actually started with the pardoning of the Punxsutawney Phil, as he was typically killed and eaten if his weather prediction were incorrect.  This tradition was stopped when local meteorologist began getting similar threats.

January 22, 1932 – iFlu: The Robots In Your Brain

On this day in 1932, roughly one year after the creation of the first flu vaccine, a group of shadowy figures held a meeting at the NSA headquarters known as The Black Chamber on East 37th St in Manhattan.  The group, then known as MI-8, had been “officially shut down” by the government over three years prior to remove them from the public eye, but “unofficially” continued to operate stronger than ever.  The meeting being held was for one simple reason; to figure out how to use the mass distribution of a vaccine to control the masses.

Over the decades the NSA has secretly experimented on the American public with varying concoctions of their yearly “flu shot”.  Generally, the chemical experimentation yielded such subtle results that the general public did not notice.  There were exceptions to this however.  In the mid to late 1960’s, a batch of flu shots laced with the experimental drug LSD, led to the birth of the Hippies and the counter-culture revolution.  Perhaps this is why, despite close quarters and poor sanitary conditions, the number of Woodstock patrons falling ill with the virus was remarkably low.

In recent years, the NSA’s techniques have become more sophisticated.  With the unacknowledged invention of nanorobots, the government can now essentially “LoJack” its citizens.  The nanorobots, nicknamed iFlu by the NSA, perform a number of functions within the human body, ranging from standard GPS tracking functions to sophisticated manipulation of neurological signals to render its hosts docile and infatuated with dim witted entertainment.  See, its not your fault you like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” or “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”… its the robots in your brain that made you do it. (For a better understanding of the nanorobot concept, please watch the documentary “Inner Space” starring Martin Short).

Finally, you may be wondering how an operation this big could be kept secret so long.  The answer takes us back to those shadowy figures in The Black Chamber in 1932, one of which was none other than Charles Walgreen Sr., creator of the Walgreen’s pharmacy.  To this day, every Walgreen’s employee is a trained NSA operative, but don’t ask them about it or they’ll go Jason Borne all over you.

Long story short, this is why your flu shot never works, not because “it was a different strain of virus this year” and this is why I personally don’t get them.  I’m also aware that due to the rigid rule of irony, I’ll likely be retching uncontrollably into the toilet tomorrow, but at least I won’t have robots in my brain.

*Side note:  The “Nasal-Drip Flu Vaccine” was invented as part of a drunken bet between coworkers at the annual NSA Christmas party to see how many ordinary people would actually allow themselves to be subjected to something like that.

December 16, 1773 – The Boston Tea Flash Mob

On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists, dressed as Mohawk indians, raided three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard.  The incident, which was a means of protest against unfair British taxation, became known as the Boston Tea Party and was one of many catalysts of the American Revolution.  After months of researching periodicals from the time, scouring the diaries of those involved, and listening to the drunken ramblings of elderly Bostonian historians, I’ve been able to put together the highlights of the timeline of that fateful evening:

Dec. 16, 1773 –

3:00 pm:  Samuel Adams, the group’s leader, lays out his plan to raid the British tea ships.  The group of colonial revolutionaries are excited at first, but begin to lose interest when Adams won’t shut up about this new concept of a “flash mob” that he’s just created.

5:30 pm:  Samuel Adams and Judge Thadius Goodman conduct a reconnaissance of the tea ships docked in the harbor.  While strolling nonchalantly past the British sentries, Judge Goodman makes a loud “not so casual” comment to Adams about rumors of indians in the area.  The two men hurry away giggling.

6:45 pm:  The revolutionaries gather at Judge Goodman’s house for dinner.  Everyone compliments Goodman’s wife on the meal she’s made, but later secretly agree that it wasn’t all that good.  Thomas Smith refuses to eat his brussel sprouts, causing great insult to Mrs. Goodman.  He is promptly dismissed from the revolutionary group.

8:15 pm:  The group begins to dawn their Mohawk indian costumes (or more accurately, the white person stereotype of how an indian dresses).  A fistfight ensues between Judge Goodman and Markus Allen over who gets to wear the “chief’s headdress”.  Samuel Adams steps in and declares that if they are going to fight about it, nobody gets to wear it.  He later wears it himself.

9:30 pm to 11:30 pm:  The group drinks beer.  A lot.  It is deemed necessary before any costumed raid.

11:45 pm:  Thirty five drunken colonist dressed like what they thought indians dressed like, slip past sleeping British sentries and board the three British tea ships.  After dumping over $18,000 worth of tea into the harbor, the group leaves one last insulting message to the British by making literal use of the ships’ poop decks.  

I hope this has shed some light on a pivotal event in our nation’s history.   As a side note, in 1973, on the 200th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the Sam Adams Brewery released a special addition craft beer brewed with British Tea and salt water from Boston Harbor.  Many were skeptical, but most critics were surprised by its “robust profile and overwhelming taste of freedom”.  A few people got sick from the harbor water, but they were deported immediately.

November 18, 1928 – Old Timey Questionable Cartoons

On November 18, 1928, at the Colony Theater in New York City, two cartoon legends make their debut in the world’s first sound synchronized cartoon.  The Walt Disney cartoon, “Steamboat Willie” launched the careers of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and was the start of the Disney empire.  The cartoon short was an instant success and quickly eclipsed the silent cartoons of the time.  One of these ill fated cartoons was another of Walt’s creations known as Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, which was basically Mickey with longer ears.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) a year earlier, the studio who owned the rights to Oswald tried to cut Disney’s pay due to the economic strains of the time.  Disney, who thought he deserved a raise due to the success of the cartoon, quit his job and together with his brother Roy and fellow animator Ub Iwerks struck out on their own to seek their revenge.

Now we all know that Mickey and Minnie stood the test of time and lead to a major cartoon empire for Disney Studios.  However, they were not the only popular characters of the time.  Here are two your grandparents might remember:

In early 1929, German cartoonist Fritz Richter (great grandson of the renowned German painter Adrian Ludwig Richter) introduced the world to “Fritz the Falcon”.  A hapless bumbling bird of prey, Fritz the Falcon saw brief success in the United States by playing on post World War I German stereotypes to entertain the masses.  With the Great War already over a decade behind them, Americans quickly lost interest in Fritz’s antics.  The cartoon lingered on for a few years, but most cartoon historian say the final nail in Fritz’s coffin came when the Nazi Party chose the falcon to be the symbol of its “Third Reich”.  Frankly, I think it failed because a creepy bird shouting at everyone in German scared the crap out of little kids.  Fritz Richter put cartooning behind him, but continued in the entertainment industry and in the mid 1950’s became a pioneer in television talk shows.  A tradition that his grand-nephew Andy carries on to this day.

In 1931, capitalizing on the success of the scantily clad Betty Boop, Toontown Productions introduced their character “Tina Tart”.  It quickly became apparent that Tina’s sex appeal was to much for the American public to handle, as the cartoon sparked riots and religious revivals across numerous American cities.  The Hays Code, which set moral guidelines for the film industry at the time, quickly killed the cartoon.  Fifty seven years later, the cartoon became the basis for the “Jessica Rabbit” character in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

November 5, 1605 – Remember, Remember… the Fourth Of November?

On November 5, 1605, the British revolutionist Guy Fawkes, is discovered lurking in a cellar below the British Parliament building just hours before Parliament and King James I were scheduled to meet.  During a search of the premises that followed, 20 barrels of gunpowder were found hidden directly beneath the Parliament building.  In what became known as the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes, along with other revolutionaries, had intended to replace the Protestant dominated Parliament with a Catholic leadership buy blowing up the whole lot of them.  November 5th is now celebrated annually in England as Guy Fawkes Day to celebrate the failure of this terrible plot.

Here’s what you generally don’t hear:

  1. On the night of November 3, 1605, Guy Fawkes’ wife, Gal Fawkes, overhears her husband and his cohorts finalizing their plans for the destruction of Parliament.  Knowing it may be the last time she will see him, Gal spends the following day preparing a feast for her soon to be “hero” husband.  During dinner, Guy explains to his family how difficult it was to move the large barrels of gunpowder and his exaggerated hand gestures knock over a glass of wine, which Gal quickly soaks up with a piece of paper she takes from the table.  The paper happens to be Guy’s one and only map of the cellar and is rendered unreadable.  Unable to find his way back to the barrels early the next morning, Fawkes is spotted wandering aimlessly along the cellar corridors.  Today November 4th is designated Gal Fawkes Day in England and people celebrate by cleaning up their messes with only their most important documents.
  2. After his arrest and ensuing torture, Guy Fawkes was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, which seems quite unpleasant.  Fawkes must have thought the same because as he climbed to the gallows he did a swan dive from the ladder, breaking his own neck.  This dive technique known as the Fawkes Flop, was briefly resurrected by the British Olympic high dive team in the early 1900’s, but was quickly banned due to its high risk level and “extreme lack of decency”.
  3. The Guy Fawkes mask has become popular in recent years as a symbol of public dissent (i.e. during the Occupy Wall Street debacle).  It is mostly worn by ignorant hipsters who don’t understand that it represents a failed terrorist (these are the same folks who were wearing the Che Guevara shirts fifteen years ago because he was such a swell guy).  In actuality, Guy Fawkes was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask at the time of his arrest.  When asked why he would wear a mask resembling his own face to commit the crime, he responded, “If I can’t blow you up, I’ll at least blow your mind.”

*The Guy Fawkes mask.  Guy Fawkes